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Timeless literary masterpieces

5 Books | by Amanda Blacksmith

Here are over 40 of the most famous works of fiction and fantasy ever published. Some books in this list date as far back as 3,000 years ago. Authors include Ernest Hemingway, Jules Verne, Harper Lee, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and more.

Beowulf

Beowulf

Books

Beowulf is the longest surviving poem of Anglo-Saxon England. Beowulf, a young warrior of the Geats, comes to the aid of Hrothgar, king of the Danes, in his time of need. He first fights the hellish Grendel, then struggles with Grendel's no less fearsome mother in her hall beneath the cold waters of the mere. More than fifty years later Beowulf, now king of the Geats, must face his final challenge in the shape of a huge and terrifying dragon. But Beowulf is not just an adventure story. Other tales of war, feuding, and loss in less mythical worlds are interwoven with the main plot in such a way as to force readers to ask questions about the heroic code; equally thought-provoking are the juxtaposition of virtuous and vicious characters, the presence of some women who are helpless victims and others who exert a strong influence on men, and above all the fact that the characters are pagan while the poet is clearly (though not insistently) Christian. Marc Hudson's thoughtful modern English version combines readability with detailed attention to both the spirit and the meaning of the original poem.

The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis

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"When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin." With this startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first sentence, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetlelike insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing--though absurdly comic--meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man."

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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Two of Mark Twain's great American novels—together in one volume.THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYERTake a lighthearted, nostalgic trip to a simpler time, seen through the eyes of a very special boy named Tom Sawyer. It is a dreamlike summertime world of hooky and adventure, pranks and punishment, villains and first love, filled with memorable characters. Adults and young readers alike continue to enjoy this delightful classic of the promise and dreams of youth from one of America’s most beloved authors.  ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINNHe has no mother, his father is a brutal drunkard, and he sleeps in a barrel. He’s Huck Finn—liar, sometime thief, and rebel against respectability. But when Huck meets a runaway slave named Jim, his life changes forever. On their exciting flight down the Mississippi aboard a raft, the boy nobody wanted matures into a young man of courage and conviction. As Ernest Hemingway said of this glorious novel, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” With an Introduction by Shelley Fisher Fishkinand an Afterword by Ishmael Reed

Catch-22

Catch-22

Books

"Catch-22 is one of this century's greatest works of American literature. First published m 1961, Joseph Heller's profound and compelling novel has appeared on nearly every list of must read fiction. It is a classic in every sense of the word. Catch-22 took the war novel genre to a new level, shocking us with its clever and disturbing style. Set in a World War II American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, Catch-22 is the story of John Yossarian, who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. Yossarian is also trying to decode the meaning of Catch-22, a mysterious regulation that proves that insane people are really the sanest, while the supposedly sensible people are the true madmen. And this novel is full of madmen -- Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly m order to finish their tour; Milo Minderbinder, a dedicated entrepreneur who bombs his own airfield when the Germans offer him an extra 6 percent; Major Major Major, whose tragedy in life is that he resembles Henry Fonda; and Major -- de Coverley, whose face is so forbidding no one has dared ask his name. No novel before or since has matched Catch-22's intensity and brilliance in depicting the brutal insanity of war. Heller satirizes military bureaucracy with bitter, stinging humor, all the while telling the darkly comic story of Yossarian, a bombardier who refuses to die. Nearly forty years later, Yossarian lives"--Cover.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Books

A great modern classic and the prelude to The Lord of the Rings. Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum. “A glorious account of a magnificent adventure, filled with suspense and seasoned with a quiet humor that is irresistible . . . All those, young or old, who love a fine adventurous tale, beautifully told, will take The Hobbit to their hearts.” – New York Times Book Review

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